It started with a Sonic Drive-In franchise in London in 1996. Since then, Chuck and Mindy Newnham have acquired a total of seven franchises with Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken and Sonic.

They now have about 140 employees and closer to 210 employees in the busy summer months. Their franchises stretch from Richmond and Lexington to Russell Springs, Columbia, Stanford and Monticello as well as the original site in London, which has been rebuilt.

Their company, K2, was the second tenant for the Kentucky Highlands Innovation Center and remains an important partner.

“We were looking for office space, and it’s so much more,” said Chuck, who handles the operations while Mindy oversees administration. “We’ve taken advantage of a free legal class, a QuickBooks class, Toast Masters speech training and other classes. And it’s so helpful to get the advice of other tenants here – there’s a lawyer, a CPA.”

Chuck also utilizes the training space to conduct classes on franchising and training for restaurant managers.

“Every community needs a Kentucky Highlands,” he said. “My business has grown because of it. We work hard, but I don’t think we’d be where we are today without the network and resources I have here. It gives me a comfort level that I have the professional services and advice rather than just Googling something. Bankers help me get my ducks in a row.”

In turn, Chuck also serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence and helps fellow entrepreneurs, who come in to pitch ideas.

“They come in, and we ask questions – what are your costs, where are you getting your materials,” Chuck said. “It forces you to look at every single process in the business. It helps you know what you’re up against and what the next steps need to be.”

He also helps people understand franchises. It costs more to invest, but it is a proven model and much of the hard work –  from menus to marketing – has been done.

“There are a lot of moving parts – buying property, appraisals, business plans, insurance,” Chuck said. “I don’t know where I would be without Kentucky Highlands.”